In Seattle, upkeep of public sidewalks is homeowner responsibility

I recently had the misfortune of tripping over a “lift” on a public sidewalk in my West Seattle neighborhood. Although I wasn’t seriously injured, I fell hard and even scraped my cheek on the sidewalk. My right shoulder and hip absorbed most of the impact, leaving my quite sore for the next couple of days and contributing (I suspect) to an attack of bursitis in my right hip.

When I was telling a friend about the incident, she informed me that (in Seattle, at least) homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of the portion of public sidewalk connected to their property. Sure enough, when I went on the City of Seattle website, I discovered that not only are homeowners responsible to maintain the sidewalk, they are also charged with care of planting strips, RainWise rain gardens and cisterns, unimproved roadway shoulders (i.e. where there are no sidewalks), and unpaved alleys.

This could come as a nasty surprise if someone injures themselves on an area you are responsible to maintain. The words “potential lawsuit” come to mind.

You can bet that I went right out to check the condition of my own sidewalk. Especially when I read the part that says, “a fault or other discontinuity greater than 1/2 inch in the sidewalk” must be remedied.

In the case of my fall, the obstruction was caused by tree roots that forced the sidewalk to lift; a common occurrence we’ve all seen all too often. As you can see from the photo, the roots had created a bulge that was substantially more than 1/2″.

photo of bulge in sidewalk

Tripping hazard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sent the homeowners a letter informing them of the incident and the city requirements, but so far, they haven’t taken any action to mitigate the situation.

What does the sidewalk in front of your home look like?

Posted 1/1/2017

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